|Interview CHRISSY FLATT
September 2003 (by E-mail)
Before my regular readers start to point it out to me, I admit that I interviewed far more gentlemen than ladies until now! So it's definitely a good time to have a conversation with a new female singer-songwriter from Austin, named CHRISSY FLATT.
When I received her debut-CD to write a review, I kind of liked it already before I listened, that just happens sometimes... Chrissy with the beautiful Monarch-butterfly that landed on her hands, dedicating the album to her father and asking to support animal shelters, yes, VERY nice. Then the music also turned out to be just what I like: countryrock, a somewhat fragile pretty voice over great guitars, with soothing strings added, heartfelt lyrics about the darker side of life mostly.
I wrote Chrissy's name on my Maybe Interview-list and some weeks passed by. Then a kind little E-mail came in from Austin, Chrissy was thanking me for the review, she even had it roughly translated on some website and she signed with "Peace, Love & Compassion". Well, if you think you know the way to my musical heart by now, it's not always this easy..., but worked for Chrissy Flatt!
Johanna: Chrissy, the title of your album is "Wings Of A Butterfly", on the disc itself and in your hands, that's a Monarch-butterfly, right, they migrate and fill the branches of an entire tree sometimes?
Chrissy: Yes that is true!
J: Why did you choose this particular butterfly?
C: Well I could read more into it than I originally meant but I think it's one of the most beautiful with its contrast of hot orange and divided by thick black like a stained glass window. Orange is the color of the sun "the giver of life". They are in danger of extinction from pesticides... they feed on mild weed as well as other weeds that are being eliminated.
J: Was the title-track actually inspired by it?
C: Not by an actual Monarch but a mere dead grey moth lying on my window sill. The moth I substituted with the butterfly because it is a symbol of regeneration and I figure when we need answers we can regenerate by seeking answers from our higher selves. I had the melody in my head and I began strumming chords and looked over and saw that sad thing... and the song (not the moth) came to life!
J: I think the most beautiful and touching song on the album is "Once Again I Sit Here", with those lines from "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" interweaved and the wonderful cello plus "fid-olin". Could you please tell something about this song?
C: I have mourned the loss of my father (died when I was four) just about my whole life but at this time I was particularly sad and lonely and missing him. He used to sing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" (and actually recorded it for the Red Cross) when he would carry me to bed. He was an older father - 61 when I was four. It is a tribute to him and an acknowledgment of the search to find that love again and cherish it. It is interesting that the Europeans know "Swing Low..." not many people in America seem to be familiar with it. I'm in love with the deep mournful sound of the cello and had the fid-o-lin to help give it a feel of strings.
J: "Sweetheart Of Waco" and "Daredevil" are cool songs about your older sisters. I don't have a sister, what's the best thing of having sisters?
C: We were pretty independent of one another but if I ever need help they are there for me and I can trust them... we didn't hang out a lot as some sisters do but always supportive of each another. You can ask them about things that a guy would not understand...
J: Eric Hisaw, who produced, wrote one of the songs, photographed the cover and played guitars on the album, is your boyfriend? Please, tell us a little more about him and his talents?
C: Yes he is my boyfriend! He is a sweetheart, a talented musician and producer and my best friend. He has two records out. The first being titled "Thing About Trains" and the second "Never Could Walk The Line" (also released in Europe on Dusty Records). He has been writing and playing guitar since he was 14 years old. When I first heard one of his songs (one he no longer plays called "Old Man") I cried... he is such a great lyricist and now with the years an excellent guitar player. He loves roots music and has a perfect feel for what to play on peoples songs. I am honored to have him share his talents with me.
J: "Guiding Angel" was the first song you wrote, it has this incredible story as a background, sad and yet there was also a new beginning. Could you please share it with us?
C: After my father died my mother moved the family from Austin to Waco. One evening while selling candles door to door to raise money for some school function I heard a small meow from a bush so I followed the sound to find a tiny black kitten and unbeknownst to me at the time... she would be my best friend for 19 years! I'd been living back in Austin for 6 months when one rainy day she passed away... I was very sad... I buried her in the backyard while the rain poured over the earth then came inside the house, sat down on the couch and wrote "Guiding Angel". I'd been playing guitar for awhile but had never been able to string the chords together with words to make a song. I feel she was sending me a gift... she was now in a place where there were no limits on what she could do... (after eating enough blue jays- she finally got her wings!)
|J: Your CD-booklet features a painting "Hope for Mother Nature Against the
Destruction of Man" and urges everybody to support their local animal
shelter. Are you active in the protection of animals and nature? You will
have readers here, you can tell them what is important...
C: The painting I purchased from a girl here in Austin (I saw it in a restaurant on display) it's actually painted in so much vibrant color! Strangely I'd only had the art for about a month before 911... it's almost like the artist was channeling a vision of what was going to happen. I know things don't change overnight but every little or any little thing a human being can do towards helping the planet is in the long run a very BIG deal. Planting a tree, buying products from companies that don't do animal testing, buying recycled products, picking up trash, anything to reduce suffering can only make the world a better place. I am a vegetarian but I don't condemn those who are not... I just believe in the idea of keeping a natural balance... everything in moderation. I feel bad spaying a cat or dog because I feel I am taking away one of their natural purposes but a sad reality is if we don't "fix" them then the over population gets picked up by the pound and they are destroyed like so many disposable entities... so it's best to fix them and love them... I think big plastic or wood or aluminum "Flintstones" style cars (you know... with petals) would be great to drive in town and only use gas or electric motors on the highways and long distance... Am I crazy... most likely! Enough ranting!!!
J: When you were a young girl, you had this bad experience with the new partner of your mother. I think it's great that you have the courage to mention this in your bio as too many children and teenagers are out there, still thinking in their isolation that certain things are "normal". Didn't you also feel that your sense of safety (in your own family-home!) was disrupted, being the worst of it all?
C: Most definately.... I did not feel safe and my sisters and I resented my mother for choosing to "turn her head" to her boyfriends perversion. My friends parents would not let them come to my house and I always felt different. I was a wary child and knew how to avoid the clutches of a madman. I thought I'd had it pretty bad until I got older and met girls (some guys too) who had been in a similar situation but had not managed to escape their worst fear... then I felt very lucky...
J: Did you ever manage to get some of it back (and how)?
C: Yes eventually... my moms boyfriend who was later to be diagnosed as a schizophrenic with multiple personalities was put in the state hospital on 3 occasions when I was a teenager - the third being for an extended period so I found some time to try to bond with my mother. In our talks I came to some peace of mind by asking more about how he had grown up and realizing his way of being was probably a combination of chemical imbalance but also his own upbringing (which I've concluded had its own abuse). As for resenting my mother... that was a bit harder to get over but once again I looked at her past life... having been in a car accident that left her in a coma at a young age to where her mind had apparently never quite returned "right". I can forgive human mistakes as long as they are not committed with malicious intent... I find peace in creating.
J: You were hanging out in the punkscene of San Antonio for a while, what attracted you there?
C: I never fit in with the "normal" crowd (now I know that no one is "normal") and I really liked the spikey hair and black clothes (still love it) and the free thought of the individual... creative diversity... the music was different and had a great energy and passion. Also people didn't seem to mess with me as much if I looked "wild"... I guess like a cactus thorns say "do not touch".
J: What can music actually do for you?
C: It soothes my soul and gives me a reason to wake up each morning!
J: You got some very nice reviews, like this quote "Chrissy Flatt is one of the most promising young musicians in Austin". Does that just make you feel good or do you also feel some pressure from it?
C: It makes me feel good and also a bit of pressure as well. I have to take some of these things with a grain of salt because Austin is a hotbed of musical talent and there are tons of great players. My talents actually lye more in the songwriting department and I've been complimented on my voice but at the same time encouraged to take voice lessons to strengthen it. Any good press makes me happy but I have to keep it in perspective.
J: What are your plans, touring, working already on songs for a new album maybe?
C: I'm trying to find a booking agent as I do all the work for myself right now and yes I've been writing and I'm fixing to go into the studio at the end of September to start work on a second record.
J: Please, tell us about the other creative things you like doing? Construction work is somewhat surprising...
C: Yes construction... that is a funny one. My mother went to T.S.T.I. in Waco and got a degree in building construction. She bought an old rickety house near downtown and proceeded to refurbish it. My mom jokes about how I would fall asleep in some corner while she and her boyfriend and my sisters were sheetrocking, taping and floating and doing all that work (I was exempt since I was only 6) and she thinks I learned it all through osmosis while I slept... that could very well be true as I had no training but a book now and then! I like wood working and painting as well. I drew a lot as a child. I am not trained in the history or names of styles but architecture (the old stuff) is awing to me!
J: Well, it was a very good decision to send your album for a review. Good luck!!!
C: Thank You! : )
Interview by Johanna J. Bodde, previously published on Real Roots Cafe, The Netherlands.